Having Your Salami (and Eating it, Too)

Gabi Moskowitz // San Francisco, CA

The author and her boyfriend on a picnic.

It took three dates before I knew I liked him, five dates before I wanted him to be my boyfriend and eight dates before I realized I was falling hard.

He was brilliant and sexy, grounded and kind-hearted. He could communicate better than any other man that I knew. And he was Jewish, which indicated to me a sense of shared values. In fact, we had much in common: we were both voracious readers and writers, we placed a high value on our creative outlets and shared a deep sense of affection for the cozy San Francisco neighborhood where we each lived. We spent many afternoons working side by side, he in his drawing journal and I on my laptop, drinking strong coffee, which was another one of our shared loves.

And while we both loved eating and cooking, there was one major difference: as a professional food writer, I placed an almost religious value on trying any food at least once. I considered it my duty as a culinary professional to embrace everything and to try to understand it. He, while deeply passionate about many foods, kept kosher.

I was familiar with the basic laws of kashrus from childhood visits to my grandparents’ house. My grandparents didn’t eat pork or shellfish (save for the occasional sausage pizza or Chinese takeout) or mix meat with dairy. Still, I considered keeping kosher to be outside the scope of my own Judaism, mostly because the dietary laws didn’t hold any meaning for me.

But food did. Food was how I expressed love, dreams and the contents of my soul. And if my cooking style was any proof, the contents of my soul most certainly included bacon.

“So, you’re, like, kosher-kosher?” I asked him one afternoon, early in our courtship, as we ordered banh mi (grilled chicken for me, tofu for him). “No meat-and-milk combos, and no pork or shellfish, ever?”

“Yup,” he answered. “Plus, I only eat fish that has scales, and meat that is certified kosher. And I really only eat meat sometimes, like if I’m at someone’s house and that’s what they’re serving.”

Ah, I thought. So kosher and mostly-vegetarian. Great.

I was afraid he wouldn’t approve of my all-inclusive diet, or the fact that my livelihood depended on it, but I figured it was best to find out where he stood. I really, really liked this guy. If my pro-prosciutto lifestyle was going to be a problem, I wanted to know sooner rather than later.

I chose a moment to gingerly ask him what his dietary restrictions meant for me if we were to continue spending time together.

“I would never dream of telling you what you should or should not eat!” he insisted.

His choice to keep kosher, like any other personal choice, was his and his alone, he explained. I could make my own choices and know he wouldn’t judge me. “If anything, I’m secretly a little jealous,” he said, his lips curling into a smile. “I really miss salami.”

Relief washed over me.

Months later, when we took our first big trip as a couple, it seemed fitting that we should end up spending a rainy afternoon in between visits to friends, sitting next to each other in a cozy booth in my favorite Brookline deli, sharing a huge pile of kosher beef salami between slices of marble rye. We toasted each other with our coffees (his black, mine with cream), and held hands under the table.

Kosher or not, it was the best damn sandwich I have ever had.

Gabi Moskowitz is the founder of BrokeAss Gourmet, a website dedicated to high-quality, low-cost recipes, drinks and tips. She’s also the author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook (May 2012), and a forthcoming book about pizza dough, (September 2013).She lives, writes, cooks and loves in San Francisco, CA.

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